Snallygaster: The Monster in Maryland

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an article clipping about the snallygaster of Maryland

Paul Bunyan, Babe the Blue Ox, and Johnny Appleseed are all well-known folktales born in truth and myth. But other tales of nastier, fearsome creatures exist across the country. One of those tales is the snallygaster, a monster who roamed Frederick County, Maryland. 

Have you heard of it? Let’s dive in and learn more about this ghastly creature.

What Is the Snallygaster?

The mysterious snallygaster is a half-bird, half-reptile dragon-like beast. It has the wings and talons of a bird, the scales and tail of a reptile, and razor-sharp teeth. According to folklore, this chimera-type beast tormented the community of Frederick County, Maryland. 

A chimera is a single creature with multiple distinct genotypes, such as a lion and a bird or this bird and reptile creature. 

What’s the Legend of the Snallygaster in Maryland?

Legend tells the story of a winged monster swooping down, terrifying children, and stealing chickens. German immigrants of the 1700s called it the Schneller Geist, meaning “quick spirit.” Hex stars, seven-pointed stars, were painted on barns to keep the beast away.

In 1909, it seemed the legend returned as citizens claimed to have seen the snallygaster with its huge wings, giant talons, and pointed bill. Local newspapers ran with the anecdotes. 

Rumors spread that “National Geographic” wanted to do an exclusive. Even President Theodore Roosevelt postponed a safari trip to hunt the snallygaster, and the Smithsonian Institution offered a reward for the hide.

According to the legend, the beast drowned in a vat of whiskey, and the government blew up the still before anyone could examine it. But some believe that the snallygaster has just remained hidden and still lives.

How Many Snallygaster Sightings Have Occurred in Maryland?

Early accounts of the sightings began as far back as the 1730s when German immigrants settled in Frederick County. Some stories even claim the monster sucked blood from its victims.

But other states jumped in on the media hype. New Jersey, Ohio, and West Virginia citizens all claimed encounters with the beast.

The Maryland sightings in 1909 were limited to just two months, February and March, with the last sighting occurring at a railroad station where the snallygaster was chased into Carroll County. 

The sightings were few but were broadcasted across the country to create a sense of mayhem. In fact, it was discovered that “Middletown Valley Register” editor George C. Rhoderick and reporter Ralph S. Wolfe made up the hoax to increase readership.

Is the Snallygaster Still Roaming Maryland?

There have been no sightings of the snallygaster since it was reported dead in 1932. However, the legend hasn’t died. In 2008, Patrick Boyton published “Snallygaster: the Lost Legend of Frederick County.” 

In 2018, Dragon Distillery of Frederick, Maryland, produced the Snallygaster, a blended whiskey. Then in 2021, Sarah Cooper opened The American Snallygaster Museum in Libertytown, Maryland.

What Is the American Snallygaster Museum?

Sarah Cooper, a cryptozoologist in Maryland, opened the American Snallygaster Museum to showcase the legend. At the museum, guests will find art, artifacts, and pop culture pieces surrounding the cryptid beast. 

The purpose of the museum is to educate and entertain. It also has rotating exhibits on other pieces of Maryland folklore like the Goatman and the Dwaayo.

Other Legends From Maryland Folklore

The legend of the snallygaster isn’t the only Maryland folklore. Here are five other stories, from sea monsters to blue dogs to witches. Let’s take a look!

The Chessie Sea Monster

Starting in 1936, sightings of a sea monster in the Chesapeake Bay began to pop up. The crew in a military helicopter saw something in the water as they flew over. 

Two fishermen later saw something in 1943. Additional sightings have been reported throughout the years of this Chessie creature.

The community has taken to this sea monster and has made it an environmental icon with pictures of the lovable creature in coloring books, newspapers, and government publications. Unlike the snallygaster, Chessie the sea monster appears friendly and likable.

Keep in Mind: You’ve heard of Mothman, but have you heard of the Batsquatch? Click to learn the Legend Behind the Batsquatch

The Demon Truck of Seven Hills Road

We’ve heard of ghosts of tortured souls haunting asylums or murdered victims walking streets late at night.

But we’ve never heard of the ghost of a truck appearing along a highway. The citizens of Ellicott City tell the tale of a jet-black vehicle driven by a faceless soul.

The Demon Truck comes barreling down the road at 100 miles per hour, causing accidents on an already dangerous stretch of Seven Hills Road. In hopes of summoning the Demon Truck, many people have died in crashes along the road.

Close up of the demon truck of seven hills road

The Goatman of Beltsville

A slew of dog disappearances and deaths occurred in the 1950s in the woods of Prince George’s County. The community blamed the Goatman, a half-human half-goat beast.

One legend variation explains Goatman as a scientist who worked in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. When his experiment on goats backfired, the scientist mutated into a half-man, half-goat creature who began acting aggressively.

Molly Dyer

Salem was the home of the infamous witch trials, but Leonardtown, Maryland, has its own resident witch named Molly Dyer. The story goes that a 17th Century colonist was accused of witchcraft. 

Citizens believed Molly Dyer had called out to the devil and caused a deadly plague and poor harvest. The community chased her out of her home after setting fire to it.

Molly knew she wouldn’t survive out in the cold, so she put her hand on a stone and called down a curse upon the town. Her body was later found frozen to the stone. Her spirit is said to continue to haunt the people of Leonardtown.

Keep in Mind: Learn more about the Salem witch trials by visiting the Witch Dungeon Museum!

The Blue Dog of Charles County

For more than 200 years, the blue dog of Charles County has been guarding his owner’s stash of gold. Soldier Charles Thomas Sims was drinking one night at a local tavern when he shared that he owned gold. 

As he left the tavern with his blue tick dog, some men who overheard his conversation confronted him and demanded to know where he kept the gold. They then killed Sims and his dog, and one of the men stole the gold and hid it under a tree.

When he returned to retrieve the gold, he encountered the ghost of the blue tick and later fell ill and died. Other people who have sought the gold have also seen the aggressive ghost of the blue dog. The last incident occurred in 1971.

Do You Believe in the Snallygaster and Other Monsters of Maryland?

Folklore is a part of our culture. Every community has stories of monsters, ghosts, and demons. Maryland has its own stories of the snallygaster, goatman, and Molly Dyer.

Many now search for these creatures and sometimes cause dangerous car accidents. Whether you believe in the snallygaster or other legends or not, use common sense and stay safe while exploring.

Are you one to believe these legends, or do you cast them aside as myths?

1 comment
  1. Have you read the book Ghosts and Legends of Frederick County? Alot of supernatural events in that county.

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